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Punctuation in Poetry

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  So, today will be quite interesting.

 

I’d give a rundown on Punctuations & Line Breaking In Poetry. Few years ago, a friend asked me to edit some of her poetry. I jumped right in, completing sentences, capitalizing words, and adding periods, commas, and question marks where they were supposed to go. But something didn’t seem right. The meaning behind her writing was lost due to all of the proper capitalization and punctuation. So, I did a little research and learned that poetry and prose follow different rules when it comes to capitalization and punctuation and space difference.

 

A visible thick line separation

So I thought that I would give my own quick primer.

 

We all know that writing comes in different forms and has different purposes. Prose, or regular writing, includes stories, magazine articles, and text books. Prose follows certain rules for punctuation and capitalization same as poetry.

 

Poems often use incomplete sentences, rhythm patterns, rhyming words, and figurative language to help readers feel a certain way or get a picture in their minds. Proper punctuation and capitalization are not always needed to achieve these goals.

 

There are a lot of rules about how to use standard English punctuation. Most of it is fairly wonky and relatively annoying, but it all serves the purpose of making things clear. There are some obvious examples of how punctuation aids in that:

 

•Let’s kill grandma.

 

•Let’s kill, grandma.

 

•Let’s Kill — grandma.

 

• Let’s Kill? Grandma!

 

Tell me. What can you see here?

 

I could go full-on English teacher and explain all of this in technical language, but you understand the difference between these two sentences, right? The first sentence implies that it’s the grandmother being eaten, while the second is inviting the grandmother to eat.

 

All of that hangs on a simple comma. The entire meaning of a sentences hinges on a little smudge of ink. This has come up in arguments over the United States Constitution which is, you know, not a document where you want a great deal of ambiguity.

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Anyway, all of this is to say that the first rule of punctuating poetry is clarity you want the meaning of your words to be clear.

 

Punctuation can also be used to regulate how poems flow.

Once you get beyond the issue of clarity, however, poetry can play fast and loose with the technical rules of punctuation in order to regulate where pauses are taken while reading, and how long and complete they are.

Think of it in terms of driving speed. A comma is a speed bump in the middle of a thought. It tells you to slow down, to give a little pause in your speech because you’re transitioning to a new clause. It’s not a completely new idea, but it’s a transition of sorts.

 

Capital letters, semi-colons, dashes, and line breaks are (in ascending order) slightly bigger speed-bumps. They require more consideration, a heftier slow-down. A period is a stop sign. Full stop. Not like we do in some countries but an actual full stop.

A stanza break is a red light. It takes a moment or two for the light to change; it’s a slightly larger pause. You’re moving on to a new collection of ideas.

 

If this paragraph was a poem and i wanted to go at breakneck speed i would stop using any punctuation at all and let the words run into each other one after another you might even notice that i stop capitalizing the letter i because even that indicates the beginning of a new thought in other words it tells you to stop and pay attention but by continuing to write without punctuation like this i can put a whole lot of words ideas images into your head one after the other and as long as nothing that i say has its meaning dependent on punctuation like eating grandma i can continue to hammer one concept after another into your head at a breakneck speed.

 

And then. You stop. You catch your breath

 

This. Is. Poetry. You. Can. Break. These. Rules

 

There are six basic forms of punctuation used in a poem: period, semicolon, comma, question mark, exclamation point and dash. With each different form of punctuation comes differing signals to the reader; being aware of the signals you as the author are giving the audience is key for conveying the desired tone and flow of the overall poem.

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GOLDEN TEXT

 

#. Use a period for a full stop. In poetic terms, a period that occurs at the end of the line is referred to as an end-stop. An end-stopped line calls for a definite pause in the recitation of the poem

 

#. A semicolon links two shared ideas; in poetry, a semicolon means the reader should pause, but not take a complete breath, because the next line is directly tied to the one just read

 

#. Make a slight pause in the poem’s forward movement with a comma.

 

#. Use a question mark or exclamation point for major emphasis.

 

#. Insert a dash when you need a pause that requires more emphasis than a comma but does not require a full stop.

 

LINE BREAKING.

 

This is a poetic device that is used at the end of a line, and the beginning of the nextline in a poem.

 

It is also a point where a line is divided into two halves. Sometimes, a line break that occurs at mid-clause creates enjambment.

 

The location of a line breaks depends solely on you—the poet.

 

The location of a line break is often dictated by the number of syllables in the line.

 

Even more than the content of a poem, it is often the line breaks that make a text recognizable to people as poetry—that is to say, recognizable as being distinct from prose, which doesn’t use line breaks in the same way. Because of that, the line could be considered the fundamental unit of poetry,

 

How to use line breaks.

 

Always place line breaks within your poems so that they don’t meaningfully disrupt the syntax of the sentence, but instead create pauses that mimic the natural pauses of speech.

 

A short walk from my room in Budapest

beneath the palace district

and the disused hospital in the rock

was the famous bathhouse called Rudas.

 

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vs.

 

A short walk from my

room in Budapest beneath the

palace district and the disused

hospital in the rock was

the famous bathhouse called Rudas.

 

The first example above uses line breaks in a way that follows the syntax of the sentence much more naturally than the second example, which is quite jarring. But some poets want to achieve that jarring effect, and use line breaks to purposefully alter the way in which someone would naturally read a given sentence.

 

Line Breaks in poetry is a very wide topic. We have limited time. But let me try to cut it.

Useful exercise which can help with learning where and why a line should break is to first of all turn a stanza or poem into prose. Here is the first stanza, turned into prose, of Mirror by Sylvia Plath.

 

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful – the eye of a little god, four-cornered. Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

 

Vs

 

 I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful ‚

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

The final trick of line break is;

Always, use a little consistent end-rhyme in your works, prefer internal echoes and near rhymes to bond lines together. Create the natural, organic line, incorporating every single bits together until it gives a reasonable effects/ stanzas that suits you.

Article by PAMILERIN

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